Walking in the Alpujarras
Having walked extensively throughout the U.K., Europe and in Morocco, I can honestly say that walking in Spain’s Alpujarra is up there with the best! To just say that there are pretty villages and scenic valleys would not do the area justice.
|Busquistar and the Taha Gorge|
The walking often begins from one of the many whitewashed villages first established by the Berber’s of North Africa when Spain was ruled by Arab kings. The architecture of these villages being identical to the villages of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. Flat roofs and distinct decorative chimneys make an amazing sight when wandering down the steep narrow streets of the villages that often seem to cling to the hillside.
Paths take you through cultivated terraces often with almonds and olives down into rocky valleys with rivers flowing (although some are dry in the summer months). The paths are often lined with wild flowers during the spring and early summer and occasionally with wild tomato hedges and mulberries later in the year. As you walk along it is not uncommon to pass the local goatherd walking his goats foraging for food and browsing the bushes either side of the path. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to remember this really is the 21st Centaury!
|Iberian Ibex "Cabra de Monte"|
Keep an eye out for the wildlife as you walk. Eagles and vultures are common but there may well be decorative hoopoes and bee-eaters as well as a host of other birds. You will hear scuttling noises revealing that a gecko is getting out of your way or you might just happen upon one! Cabra de Monte (Iberian Ibex) is common in the more remote parts of the valleys.
A unique feature of the area are the acequia’s, water channels that transport water from the steams and distribute it to the hill farms around the hillsides. Although it was the Romans who first introduced them to this area, the present system of acequia’s date back to the time when the Arabs ruled Spain. Most of the acequia’s have narrow paths running beside them which make for great walking and the presence of water attracts many wild flowers. Some acequia’s are lined with ancient chestnut trees.
|Walking beside an Acequia|
It is possible to walk in the Alpujarra throughout the year with the exception of the summer months. The Alpujarra gets very hot in summer and too hot for most people to enjoy walking. In July and August it is possible to walk high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains where the temperatures are cool, 15 to 25 degrees depending on height and wind strength. Walking in the winter months in the Alpujarra is usually o.k. and if the sun is out you might even be wearing shorts and tee shirt in February! If staying in one of the higher villages it is not uncommon for 2 or 3 days snow a couple of times each winter.
We are based near Lanjaron which is a good for access to the whole Sierra Nevada Mountain range. If I was looking for a base in the Alpujarra for a walking holiday I would consider one of the especially pretty villages of Capileira, Bubion or Pampaneira. A lot of walkers stay in Capileira and there is usually some kindred spirit to strike up conversation with in a bar. There is also the National Park Information office here.
A car is useful in this area though using public transport is possible as there is reasonable public transport. Details of the bus company and time table in English can be found on the Sierra Nevada Guides website.
The area’s popularity has been increased by Chris Stewarts book, Driving over Lemons which paints an honest picture of what it’s like living in the area. A good read in its own right but you may enjoy your visit more after reading this.
There are some suggestions as to suitable walks on the Sierra Nevada Guides website with free downloads, these confine themselves to the western Alpujarra, Lecrin Valley and western Sierra Nevada. A useful walking book is Holiday Walks in the Alpujarra by Jeremy Rabjohns. Maps can be bought in the U.K. from Stanford’s and we recommend Sierra Nevada, La Alpujarra 1:40 000. Maps are flimsy and you might like to cover them in sticky back plastic before leaving the U.K.
Sierra Nevada Guides are the only company of qualified British Guides based in the area. We are happy to advise you on route choice or guide you on a more challenging itinerary.
|Spring in the Alpujarra|